Colleges With No Tuition

It may sound too good to be true, but these colleges actually waive tuition costs completely.

By Ashley Henshaw | April 21, 2014

Though Webb Institute only has one major, students interested in Naval architecture and Marine Engineering should consider this school.
Photo: Webb.edu

Students who want a debt-free college experience should consider applying to a college with no tuition costs. Though it’s rare in this day and age of five-digit annual tuition rates, there are still some colleges and universities in the U.S. which allow students to earn their degree tuition-free. The following schools don’t charge a penny for tuition, but be warned – there may be another type of commitment involved, such as compulsory employment, military service or a specific program of study.

Work Colleges

Many students work a part-time job during college to help pay for tuition and other expenses. But what if your part-time job paid all of your tuition? That’s what happens at three of the seven work colleges in the U.S. These three institutions require that students work a certain number of hours per week at various jobs on and off campus in exchange for free tuition. As members of the Work Colleges Consortium (WCC), these schools don’t look at this arrangement as a hand out. Instead, they aim to help students develop a work ethic, problem-solving skills and an impressive resume. Many of the work positions in which students are placed are intended to help them reach their career goals in the future.

Don’t forget that, even though these colleges have no tuition costs, you may still need to pay for other college-related expenses like room and board, books and student fees.

The following are the three WCC colleges that offer free tuition to all students:

  • Deep Springs College
    Deep Springs college in California's high desert is an private, all male, two year college founded in 1917. The student body typically hovers around 26 students. In exchange for free tuition, room and board, students must complete 20 hours on either the college's ranch or farm.
  • Webb Institute
    At Webb Institute in Glen Cove, New York, students have only one choice of what they want to study. The program's only major is Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. For students who are interested in this career path, though, Webb Institute is an exceptional institution with free tuition. Students participate in an annual work study program called "winter work" during January and February. Winter work places students in shipyards and on ships so they can gain hands on experience in their field of study.

The WWC includes four other colleges as well. Though tuition isn’t free at these schools, all tuition and living expenses are dramatically reduced in exchange for student work:

Deep Springs College has rapidly gained national prominence -- Vanity Fair recently did a story about the success of their program.

U.S. Military Service Academies

Students interested in pursuing a military career should consider applying to one of the country’s five service academies. At each of these institutions, students receive a full four-year scholarship covering all of their tuition costs as well as room and board, books, and medical and dental care. After graduation, students at these academies are required to complete a service obligation of a minimum of five years. The competition to get into these service academies is fierce; students are expected to have an impressive academic record that includes high test scores, extracurricular activities, leadership experience and community involvement. With the exception of the Coast Guard Academy, prospective students must also submit a congressional letter of recommendation with their application.

The following are the five U.S. military service academies:

Unlike other military academies, Merchant Mariners only have to provide proof of employment in an approved field to fulfill their obligation of service.


Other Tuition-Free Colleges

There are several other colleges and universities where students don’t have to pay any tuition. These institutions include:

  • Macaulay Honors College at CUNY
    At Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, students get a full undergraduate tuition scholarship along with a free laptop, a Cultural Passport to NYC arts and cultural venues and a $7,500 Opportunities Fund to pursue global research, internships, study or service. The college is very selective about admissions, and students must meet residency requirements to get free tuition.
  • Barclay College
    Barclay College is a Quaker bible school in Haviland, Kansas. The college offers a full-tuition scholarship worth $11,000 per year to each full-time student living on campus.

Macaulay Honors College is part of the CUNY system in New York.
Photo: Cuny.edu

Don’t forget that, even though these colleges have no tuition costs, you may still need to pay for other college-related expenses like room and board, books and student fees. Make sure to research these additional costs at any college you’re considering to ensure that you’re financially prepared to attend school.

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